McConnell's Distillery opens in Belfast's Crumlin Road Gaol

McConnell's Distillery opens in Belfast's Crumlin Road Gaol

The whisky distillery is the next step in the revival of the McConnell's Irish Whisky brand, whose roots in Belfast date back almost 250 years


Pictured: (from left) US trade envoy Joe Kennedy III, Northern Ireland first minister Michelle O'Neill, deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly, and McConnell's Irish Whisky CEO John Kelly at the opening of the McConnell's Irish Whisky Distillery in the former Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast

News | 19 Apr 2024

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The McConnell's Irish Whisky Distillery has opened its doors in Belfast, bringing a historic brand back to the city.


Located in the former Crumlin Road Gaol building, the distillery takes its name from a long-dormant Irish whiskey brand, formerly produced by J & J McConnell, whose roots in the Northern Irish capital date back to 1776.


The Belfast Distillery Company, owned by Belfast man John Kelly, revived the McConnell's brand in 2020 and currently produces a five-year-old blended whisky and a sherry cask-finished whisky using sourced spirit.


The McConnell's distillery is the 50th on the island of Ireland to become a member of trade body the Irish Whiskey Association.


Its opening on 17 April was attended by the first minister and deputy minister of Northern Ireland. Joe P Kennedy III, a US trade envoy to Northern Ireland, was a special guest at the event, celebrating the historical links between the US and the Irish whiskey industry and the US private investment that supported the revival of the McConnell's brand. A total investment of £30 million (€35 million) was put into the distillery project, including funding from the Northern Ireland government.


The distillery, which is in the Victorian prison's renovated A wing, is expected to produce 500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year through a 24-hour operation. It is already operating a visitor experience, to which it eventually hopes to welcome 100,000 visitors a year.


CEO of McConnell’s Irish Whisky John Kelly said: “Established by Hugh McConnell in 1776, McConnell’s contributed to the success story that was a rapidly expanding Belfast in the 18th and 19th centuries. The rebirth of the brand...marks just one step in our journey towards revitalising whisky distilling in the city, building a world-class visitor experience and shining a spotlight on a great Belfast tradition that is alive and flourishing again.”


Speaking from the McConnell's gala opening, Irish Whiskey Association director Eoin Ó Catháin said: “This is the 50th distillery in the membership of the Irish Whiskey Association, which is an incredible testament to the promise of the wider sector. In 2010, there were just four working distilleries on the island of Ireland. To see this rapid growth, and the increased sales and export success of this category is confidence inspiring.”

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